The television rendition of Stephen King’s Under the Dome has been a highlight to my recent summertime entertainment schedule. Having built up a decent collection of episodes on the DVR, I dove in this last weekend to catch up on the show that everyone is talking about. While the scope of Under the Dome is not worldwide, it has a definite apocalyptic feel to it. Stephen King has some type of unique, almost supernatural insight into the end of the world and is able to capture the essence of what “the end” might be like. Indeed, it is the apocalypse for the people of Chester’s Mill that are trapped beneath a giant, invisible and indestructible dome, completely cut off from the rest of the world. Physically isolated from the outside world, the power-hungry and insane rise up to complicate the struggle for limited resources. As is often the case, the CBS television series doesn’t strictly follow the book. Rather than going into those specific details in this article, I’ll defer to Dina Rae, author of The Last Degree, as she does an excellent job at describing the differences between the book and TV show on her blog here.
Now forgive me for getting sidetracked but Under the Dome does such a good job of creating that “end of the world” tone that it occurred to me that there are certain factors that create the perfect apocalyptic fiction scenario. Stephen King is so good at creating this type of story maybe he uses a type of formula to get a reader/watcher into “the zone” so to speak. Here’s a few of the factors that I was able to identify:
- unknown event (what happened?; cause unknown; speculation only). Consider-if all electronic communication were instantly disabled forever, would we ever know exactly what happened?
- mental illness or downright evil traits are exacerbated (perhaps through lack of medication or lack of legal/social restrictions)
- limited resources (access to food, water, energy are reduced and amounts are reduced)
- reduction or no rule of law (legal system inadequate/not functioning, people feel unrestrained and feel a new freedom to act without fear of consequences)
While these factors will mostly be relevant in the early stages of an apocalyptic event, I think they give a useful framework for writers out there that are interested in setting the tone for an apocalyptic story. In essence, an apocalyptic event acts like a magnifying glass focusing onto people and/or situations. With increased magnification, situations that weren’t apparent before quickly become visible. Sunlight could focus through the glass, creating focused heat, forging new characters or setting them alight. If you have any ideas for what creates the perfect apocalyptic scenario please leave a comment!
Watch Under the Dome TV on Amazon Instant Video Below: